making the move, “from commercial 3d software to blender” part 3

Today I’ll go over my impressions of the User Interface (UI) of Blender.

The User Interface is what gives you the first impression of any software, and Blender has an interface that looks pretty sleek and modern. It uses a Cross platform OpenGL GUI library that looks the same on all supported platforms, which is a good thing!

The interface has three “rules”, saying that it should be:

  • Non Overlapping: The UI permits you to view all relevant options and tools at a glance without pushing or dragging windows around.
  • Non Blocking: Tools and interface options do not block the user from any other parts of Blender. Blender doesn’t pop up requesters that require the user to fill in data before things execute.
  • Non Modal: User input should remain as consistent and predictable as possible without changing commonly used methods (mouse, keyboard) on the fly.

So what does this mean in practice?

Well, Blender is and looks a bit different than anything else out there and therefore takes some getting used to, as with anything else in Blender.
But personally I’ve come to like it very much, because it allows for unhindered configurability. If you like to work in a full 3d view, without any distractions (this is the way I prefer to model), you can just hit Ctrl + UpArrow to toggle a full window/regular view (you need to have your mouse cursor over the window/pane to maximize).
This is a very nice feature when working with the Node Editor, to give you space to see your whole node system, or any other panel you like to isolate.

Like in Modo, the windows can be split into as many smaller windows as you like, each containing different content, or duplicating an existing one if that is what you want. I love this ability to create new window presets, and they can also be saved and restored in later sessions.

Some pictures are in place to demonstrate this:

Blender Interface 1

You can click and drag any divider to split the windows horizontally or vertically
Blender Interface 2

This way you can construct your own working presets, like this one I’ve made for texturing:

Blender Interface 3

So, as you can see, the interface is very customizable.

I don’t know what else to say about the window arrangement, but it is very easy to get exactly what you want for any given job.

No 3D application would be complete without a Quad View, and Blender supports this as well. Just hit Ctrl+Alt+Q (for quad, i guess).

Blender Interface 4

You can switch the 3D view to show wireframe, textured, shaded, as bounding boxes and with Cycles renderer enabled, you can also view the object As Rendered! Very nice indeed.

After working in Blender for a couple of days, the viewport/window shortcuts I find myself using most for navigation (in random order) is:

Ctrl + Alt + 0 (zero) = Align Active Camera to view
This way it is easy to set up a general view for render in the 3D viewport.

Shift + C = Center Cursor and view all
To get an overview of my scene

. = Zoom to selected
Would not survive without this

Ctrl + UpArrow = Maximize window under cursor
Very nice feature to get into the details

Numpad / = Isolate selected in view (local/global view)
Very practical for getting an undisturbed focus to a single object in the viewport

z = toggle solid/wireframe view

Home = Zoom to All
Get a view over your whole scene

1 – 10 = Select layer (shift to add more than one)

1-9 (num pad) = jump to different views (top,right,back etc) 5 to toggle persp/ortho

And off course the regular Rotate, Zoom and Pan is self explanatory.

Last time I covered the Selection tools briefly, and next up, I’ll cover some of the basic tools that I find myself using all the time and how I think they work compared to how other software implements similar solutions.

This has been a brief overview of the Viewport and navigational features of Blender.

I really like the way it is implemented, and I don’t miss anything from Maya or Modo when it comes to windows and navigation, though it does take some time to adjust to it! Within a few days it starts to feel more and more natural anyway…

Until Next Time:

Happy Blending 😉